Evita Myths and Legacies Created Through the Public Eye of Photography
Evita has had many faces during her life. These faces represent the myths of her life. They are both true and untrue and sometimes the true myths of her life have been exaggerated. Photography can portray the mythic qualities of life stronger than just words alone. Throughout Evita’s life, cameras have captured what Evita represented to the public eye. These images have helped carry on her myths after her death.The goal of this project is to show Evita’s life through society’s imagination and focus it back to what really was happening during Evita’s life and how she viewed herself. I have chosen to focus on seven myths of her life. Since they do not all happen in a chronological order, as some spanned her whole life while others emerged later on, this project does not represent a chronological history of her life but rather a collage of events. I conclude with Evita’s death and her longevity into the modern world.
The Myths of Evita The Actress Triumph Over Poverty The Faker/The Illegitimate Woman The President’s Wife/Political Union The Fighter for the Poor/Mother of all Poor Megalomaniac The Revolutionary
The Actress Evita pursued acting to find a route out of poverty. Many of her roles were small and the film industry was tightly linked to the government so it was hard for actors to advance their careers. However, she liked to play roles and a lot of the vigor of her later speeches may be contributed back to her passion to be the powerful woman she imagined herself as. These two photos were used as publicity stills. They look very different from the Evita we know.
Evita’s acting career was used by her enemies to portray her as a whore and a woman unworthy of a political position. Rumors surfaced of her using sex to advance her acting career. Even though Evita had some meretricious relationships with men during her acting career, the myths of her being a whore are exaggerated. The following “prohibited photo” is from a magazine advertised as showing the scandalous life of Evita during her acting career.
The Faker/The Illegitimate Woman Not only Evita’s acting career was used to promote her as a whore. Her low-class childhood was used to make her into a fake elite. She was portrayed as an illegitimate child born out of wedlock, uneducated, and using her looks to make a living. Photos that would seem harmless today were scandalous to the Argentinean elite then. This photo was taken when she was about 20 years old during a modeling shoot, exposing her bare arms and legs.
Triumph over Poverty Evita emerged from her impoverished past initially with her acting career and then socially through her political unity with her husband. She had a determined personality and took advantage of what life gave her. In the following photo, Evita is standing next to Libertad Lamarque, a well-known actress of the time in Argentina, during the filming of the movie La cabalgata del circo (Circus Calvacade). Because of her connections to Juan Peron, she is given this role, one of the largest roles she will play. However, her uninhibited personality led her to quarrelling with Libertad. The smug look on Evita’s face seems to show this.
After Evita involved herself with Juan and his political endeavors, she became a prominent woman both politically and socially. The following photos show Evita speaking passionately to the crowds. Her outstretched arms seem to motivate herself as much as the people she is speaking to. She has successfully reached her goal to become someone important.
In 1952, after Evita’s death, she appeared on the cover of Caras y Caretas, a prominent Argentinean magazine. The photo they chose idolizes her as the beautiful, generous women she was. She is dressed richly in this picture but everyone knew she was a defender of the poor. The photo seems to say that this is glamorous woman that we admired and we will sorrowfully miss her. Her life that started in poverty ended with her showing the world that the rich could feed the poor.
President Peron’s Wife Evita played her role as the president’s wife with both her appearance and her actions. She dressed the part of the president’s wife with her glamorous clothes and jewelry when she was in the public eye. This first photo captures her majesty with her dress and her self composure.
From June 6th to August 23rd, 1947, Evita was an ambassador for the president and Argentina when she went on the Rainbow Tour in Europe and South America. This photo was taken when she received the Cross of Isabel the Catholic from Generalíssimo Franco in Spain. She portrays a wealthy image of Argentina with her dress and sophisticated composure. She looks almost overly elegant compared to the other people in the photo.
The following photo captures her less glamorously with Juan. They are relaxed and look like they could be any married couple. An important part of their relationship was their shared ideas and politics. They seemed to understand and compliment each other well. This comfortable relationship they had was an important part of their image as the leaders of the country.
These last two photos also show their ability to lead the country together. The first was taken as they mingled with a crowd of supporters. They represent husband and wife united fighting for the people. They may have enforced this image by using propaganda, like their portraits that can be seen in the background. The second photo shows Evita looking on as Juan signs a paper. The photo looks almost staged, but it shows how they were viewed as a political husband and wife “team.”
Fighter for the Poor Evita designated much of her day to helping distribute funds and services to the poor. She individually met with needy families and treated them with as much or more respect than her own peers. The following photo shows Evita meeting with a family in her office. She looks so official and classy yet she is at an eye-to-eye level with the woman she is meeting. Evita saw no reason to treat the poor any different than the rich.
Evita created and ran the María Eva Duarte de Peron Foundation in 1948. In 1950 it was changed to the Eva Peron Foundation, as it is known today. It has specific objectives that focus around the bettering of impoverished lives. Donations to the Foundation would come from middle and upper class citizens and union members. In this photo, Evita is receiving a donation from a trade union. Giving donations to the foundation was very routine and considered a respectable demonstration of generosity.
Evita worked with people eye-to-eye but she also enforced her “protector of the poor” image by giving speeches to thousands of workers and followers. In this photo the passion and urgency can be seen in Evita’s expression during a speech.
Megalomaniac One of the reasons why Evita’s life has such a mythic quality to it is because she promoted her image in relation to the roles she played in society. She conceived herself as a certain person and wanted to convince everyone else that that was who she was. She was an actress playing a role in which she truly believed. The following touched-up photo was used for distributing Evita’s image throughout Argentina. She appears stately yet warm. It is classic Evita, with her hair pulled back, her jewels, and a radiant smile.
The Revolutionary Evita was revolutionary in many aspects. In many of the photos I have shown in this presentation, you will notice that she is usually surrounded by men. She was a woman in a man’s world and was ahead of her time in this aspect. She was also considered the activist Peronist while Juan was the intellectual Peronist. Revolutionary groups look more towards Evita when they look for populist inspiration. This famous photo of Evita shows her speaking powerfully to a group of people. Her spirit for change is seen in the passion of her expression.
The Death of Evita Evita died on July 26th, 1952 of uterine cancer. The fact that she knew of this cancer long before her death and did nothing for it gives her a sort of martyrdom essence to her death. For whatever reason, she chose to suffer an early death instead of having the possibility of living on to an old age. Many people attended her funeral and her body was embalmed and put on display. The following picture was taken during the two week funeral process. The dark mood captured by the photo is enhanced by the angle at which the photo was taken, giving Evita a truly deathly look.
The people that attended the funeral were loyal followers of all ages. People waiting to see Evita’s body were instructed to be respectfully quiet as seen in one of the following photos. This shows us the huge quantity of people that came to give their respects to Evita. In the other photo, children give their respect to Evita with candle sticks.
The Legacy of Evita Evita’s images, ideals, and myths lived on through her followers during her life and after her death. The personality cult created from her image and ideals lives on today. She has become an icon of the working class of the 20th Century, not only for the people of Argentina but throughout Latin America and the rest of the world. The following images are photos, renditions of photos, and works of art that incorporate her image with the myths of her life.
Artwork by S. Bret Kaufman using pictures and documents related to Argentina and Evita.
On the cover of Time magazine. Caption reads: “Between two worlds, an Argentine rainbow.” Evita Comic Book
Evita has appeared on many stamps. Here are two examples: “Eva Peron eternally with her people.” (1973) “Anniversary of her passage to immortality” (1954)
Evita has been the subject for a plethora of books and biographies: The official book for the play by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Time Rice. Some view Evita as a saint because of her nobility towards the poor.
And of course Hollywood and Broadway have made their attempts to glorify Evita’s life: On stage: the play by Andrew Lloyd Weber. In film: Madonna as Evita.
Evita Peron May 7th, 1919 – July 26th, 1952